Saturday, 24 December 2011

2011, the year that games forgot..

Today is the 24th December 2011, Christmas Eve.
All the big games of 2011 have been and gone and there is now nothing worth looking forward to until Catherine in February and what do we have to show for it? Not a lot sadly.
This year has seen a shitload of AAA Titles, most of them carrying the Number 3 in their title and a tiny smattering of new IPs and the majority of them extremely disappointing!
I have had a hard time deciding on 3 games I love this year, not because there are too few to choose from but because there were just so many, all of which were somewhat ho-hum.
For this list of my Top 3 for 2011, I have naturally ignored all the absolute turkeys which includes:

Fight Night Champion: Worst of the Franchise by far with a terrible new story mode!
Dragon Age II: A videogame abortion. Hated every minute of it!
Assassin's Creed: Revelations: Why are these still being made?
Fable III: As expected for a Peter Molyneux game, pointless and endlessly dull.
L.A. Noire: A game that looks lovely at times but is just so unbelievably dull!
Duke Nukem Forever: A game totally out of it's time.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Almost as bad as the movie!
Dungeon Siege III: Worst dungeon crawler I have ever played!

So as you can see there was a lot of games that I really could have done without playing but them there's the breaks!
There were loads of other games which were ok but didn't set the world on fire such as Resistance 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 & Battlefield 3 and those that were close to excellent but just had too many issues to be up there like Dark Souls and Batman: Arkham City.
So that leaves just my top 3, which are:

3: Skyrim
I liked Morrowind, a lot! Oblivion though was pretty awful and so I was worried when I read about Skyrim but then...DRAGONS! Who doesn't want to fight dragons!?
As it turned out, I had more trouble fighting a pack of wolves than I did the dragons! Sad but true.

Graphically this game is a joy to behold. Every forest, city and mountain is teeming with life but sadly not a lot else.
As with all the Elder Scrolls Bethesda made a big point of how you can climb a mountain and look far off into the distance, choose a location walk there! Amazing yes but sadly walking 10 miles from a mountain to a ruin means an hour of absolute boredom. If you're lucky you'll meet a few NPCs but chances are they'll just give you some pointless mission to recover a necklace or a tusk...boring.
Luckily the magic and smithing systems add to an otherwise overly familiar game and propel it from absolute mediocrity to a game that, when you look past it's many flaws, is a wonderful creation and cannot be given anything but the utmost respect.

2: Dead Island
This one was a real difficult decision as my experience with Dead Island was awful. Having it on the PS3 I was subjected to some of the worst glitches I have ever beheld. Saves corrupt after 30 hours of playing, all my equipment turned into 2x4 planks, multiple missions were impossible to finish due to NPC's freezing in midair and terrible popup!
Everything about this experience could have made me hate this game but I couldn't. The setting, an idyllic Mediterranean holiday resort is the last place one would expect to find a Zombie Outbreak but as it turns out it as nothing short of genius.
The sense of horror, stumbling across scenes of carnage in rooms used by innocent holiday goers was much more effective than any military installation and the use of weapons was a brilliant mix of Dead Rising & Condemned.
My only gameplay issues were the inclusion of the giant zombies which always seem a bit of a realism killer  and certain areas on the map which you have to pass through that contain fast respawn points for zombies meaning death was a very common thing at times.
But all of these problems cannot change the fact that this is a truly brilliant game. It captured the panic and horror of a zombie outbreak far better than I could ever have hoped possible.

1: Saint's Row The Third
Now I feel I should point out that I hated Saint's Row 1 as it felt like a terrible GTA clone. Saint's Row 2 was good as it set itself apart as more of a parody of the torrent of GTA style games on the market so I did go into Saint's Row The 3rd with a sense of expectation which was only mildly marred by a lot of generally average scores and opinions.
Within an hour of starting, I had stolen a vault by helicopter, jumping from a plane, had a gunfight in freefall and then fell through a passing plane to return to freefall only to save the lady and land safely.
It played like a videogame version of Crank and had my adrenaline pumping throughout.

From here the missions varied through general "drive here and kill" to "Steal this" types to more unusual missions involving zombies, Tron-style worlds and Gameshows with killer rabbits.
The game has a very subtle story which shows itself enough to guide the main story from start to finish and even offers multiple paths at times and there are enough side missions to keep even the most ardent of gamers happy for hours and hours.
I do feel I need to explain that I am somewhat of a fickle bugger when it comes to games like this. I am not a big fan of the GTA series as I find them dark and unnecessarily depressing nor am I a massive lover of games that offer nothing more than driving around and shooting but there is just something about this one that grabbed me by the Huge Purple Dildo and wouldn't let go.
I think it is the mix of mission types, the excellent selection of vehicles and the fantastic sense of humour that kept me coming back for more.
I never for a second though this would be my game of the year and I know barely a handful of others would agree with me but I don't care.

So there you you have it, my Top 3 games of 2011. It has been a rather poor year for games which for some is a real pain in the ass but it just allowed me more time to build up my Retro collection and so when the current generation is next stalling, I can fall back on my old 8 and 64 bit friends =o)

In space, no-one can hear you hijack!

Ok, time for my first review and what better the start with than one of my all time favourite games, Paradroid!
I originally obtained this game via the covertape of Issue 80 of Zzap!64 which came with Rainbow and Spy vs Spy 3. I remember being a tad confused as, unlike the foreshadowing of Rainbow and Spy 3 in Issue 79 I had never heard of Paradroid before and so expected very little from wrong I was!
To begin, a little history of the game itself.
Created by Andrew Braybrook (who later went on to make Uridium, Fire & Ice and the excellent Amiga conversion of Bubble Bobble) and released in 1985 it tells the tale of a droid called the Influence Device (ID) which is sent to a fleet of ships taken over by the robot workers to bring order. 

The ID, while armed with a weak laser weapon has a more unique ability, that of being able to hack enemy droids and take control of them thus gaining their abilities. Each droid is assigned a 3-digit Identity, the ID being 001 and the ultimate droid, the Command Droid 999. In between are a large mix of butlers, cleaners, workers, miners, military and security droids all of which vary in speed, durability and weapon, the latter being single laser, double or Disruptor which flashes the screen damaging all enemies in sight albeit at a much lower level.
The game is played from an overhead view and all droids are shown as circular symbol with their numerical identity between the two halves and move around a series of room and corridors via automatic doors. All the floors are linked by a series of elevators which requires a little bit of lateral thinking as some floors require you to go a long way around to access.
A pseudo time limit is in place via a continual degradation of your enemy requiring you to visit energy pads often to top up and the same applies when you are using another droids form, although death in the latter situation kills the controlled droid and the former brings about Game Over!

All your droids are belong to us!

So I have spoken a lot about the Hijacking and this is what really stood out for me back then. After remaining stationary for a few seconds holding the Fire button 001 would start to pulse. Ram an enemy caused the screen to change to a vertically split screen with 001 on the left, the target on the right and a series of 12 Purple and Yellow lights down the centre.

One either side of the screen are circuits that that run to one of those lights and each circuit has a condition which could be a straight connector, a blocked connector, a colour changer or a surge booster.
When the minigame starts, a 100 unit timer appears and each side is given a number of 'batteries' (the number of which is determined by the rank of the current controlled droid) with which to try and capture as many of the central lights as possible being mindful of the conditions of the circuits which can either cause the battery to be wasted, score a point for the enemy or prevent the winback of that light!
At the end of the timer, the side with the most lights lit wins and if that is you, you gain control of the enemy droid. If the enemy wins though it's curtains for you unless you happen to have been in another droids form already in which case that 'shell' is destroyed and you are left with a slither of health...
So that is the basic premise. You move around the ship, hijacking more and more powerful droids until you have cleared it fully of foes and then move onto the next ship until you clear the 8th when you start afresh but everything is ranked up to a much higher level.

A game unlike it's brethren.

Now that we have an idea of the game I'd like to call attention to the fact that back in 85 there had been few, if any, games that had such a free roam setup, open gameplay and minigames! Most things back then were platformers and side scrolling shooters so the aerial view itself was a novelty and although many other games were showcasing parallax scrolling and bass tunez Paradroid was a much more reserved affair but seemed all the more mature for it.

Everything in this game worked. The screen was clear and easy to understand, the minigame never felt like you were shortchanged or cheated and the mix of foes on the floors of the ship were varied enough that you always had a means to work your way from the lowly level of 001 to a more advanced, combat-ready droid!
I think the fact that it has been remade numerous times on Amiga, ST & PC then released on the Wii-Arcade shows there is lots of love for this game and I feel no shame at all in having it in my Top 10 games across all platforms!

Check it out..NOW!

Score: 9/10
Simply put, one of the greatest Commodore 64 games I can think of! A really unique game at the time of it's release and still plays beautifully today. If the 80s graphics put you off, check out Project Paradroid on the PC. 

And so it begins....

Well here we are, 35 years on this earth and I have finally decided to do that which I always though was a silly waste of time...Blogging.

Now I play videogames, a lot of games. I've been doing so since I was a toddler playing on my Father's Telstar Ranger in about 1979 and today it is my main pastime when not working or spending time with my family.
Most of the time I stick to Single Player games but the occasional foray into Multiplayer is not unheard of so I will try and give as balanced an opinion as possible..
Of course, if you are here hoping to find nothing but Xbox or PS3 reviews you will be disappointed as I also play a lot of Retro games so you can expect to see reviews of SNES, Megadrive or even older games.

Another thing I spend a lot of time doing is watching movies. I have an extensive collection of films so reviews of movies will also be present on occasion both from me and some of my closest friends who are also big movie buffs. Again, while you can expect generic Hollywood shlock you will also find them standing shoulder to shoulder with Anime and Cartoons.
And last of all, books. I am an avid reader of both novels, comics and RPG books so I will sometimes be posting opinions of books both new and old.

I hope someone finds this atleast mildly interesting but to be honest I think this is more for me than anyone else =o)